In a bid to fulfill its campaign promises to link all parts of the country through railway, the Federal Government has flagged off a $3.2billion rehabilitation Eastern Narrow Gauge Rehabilitation project.
The Project whose contract duration is 36 months has a total route length of 2044.1km, with a number of 61 stations and passing loops.
Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony, President Muhammadu Buhari says that the project is with the objective of resuscitating the once vibrant railway transportation in the Eastern railway corridor of the country, Port Harcourt – Maiduguri.
Buhari further said that it will be expanded to achieve contemporary demand for transport in the North East and Southern geopolitical zones of the country. It is also designed to link other standard gauge rail lines under construction through the provision of transshipment centers.
He said , “First is the Port Harcourt to Maiduguri narrow gauge railway reconstruction project with new branch lines to Owerri, Imo State and Damaturu, Yobe State. The second and the third projects are the Bonny deep sea port and a Railway Industrial Park, Port Harcourt that are to be constructed through direct investments by our Chinese partners and international financing agencies”.
He further said “These projects will serve transportation and supply chain network for domestic needs and export as well as support imports into the hinterland of the country through the new deep sea port in Bonny Island, Rivers State”.
“In planning this project, prudent use of resources has been given priority, as by this endeavor, Nigeria will retrieve the old narrow gauge that has been lying in neglect for years and bring it to full functional state commensurate to a National railway service at a rational price” Buhari said.
Speaking earlier, the Minister Of Transportation Hon. Rotimi Amaechi said that the project is a part of the comprehensive plan for the revitalization, rehabilitation and expansion of the Nigerian Railway network to meet up with the transport infrastructure needs of the country.
Amaechi said that Upon completion, trains on the Port Harcourt – Maiduguri Eastern Narrow Gauge Railway will run at 60 – 80 kilometers per hour Kph and 80 – 100 kilometers per hour Kph for freight and passengers.
He said “The Eastern narrow gauge railway is one of the transport infrastructure established in the pre-independence period and played significant role in the development of agriculture and industrial sectors in the colonial era and immediate post-independence year up till 1985, when it became unfit for purpose as a result of the general neglect and divestment suffered by the Nigerian railways”.
He further said “The effort of Government at rehabilitation of this rail line in year 2009 – 2012, did not achieve the desired outcome, partly due to inadequate funding and incompetence of some of the Contractors employed. The rail line therefore, remain unserviceable”.
“The need for a functional rail line on this Eastern corridor persists and remain compelling as the supply chain for products and services on this corridor vanishes and articles and items such as petroleum products, iron and steel, minerals, livestock and poultry products availability were reduced giving rise to high cost and affecting the manufacturing and agro-allied industries” Amaechi said.